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Mindful of mental health through the holidays

I feel that this is an important topic to bring up before the “Holiday Season” begins. There is already no doubt that this year will be different. Some people may feel that this blog is a bit early but there is already a holiday among us. Halloween is right around the corner (on Saturday) and we have decisions to make. Do we go to that party? Do we wear a mask? Will everyone be wearing masks? Should I just stay home? What will my family say?

If you’ve asked yourself any of these questions, give yourself a break. This is part of adjusting to life after quarantine. These are no longer easy questions to answer. Analyzing the risk vs. the benefit of being social now has a whole new level of consequences to contend with.

The pre-COVID-19 mental health awareness and tips for combating holiday stress has to be modified. Pre-COVID-19; things like holiday guilt, familial stress, and increased use of alcohol and drugs continue to be important points of awareness but consider these NEW ideas that we need to adapt to.

1. Acknowledge that this year is different.

I feel like I say this a lot, but that’s because it is true. We cannot live in a fantasy world, that life will return to normal…it can’t. That is the old normal. We cannot unlive the last 6 months. Family and friends may be trying harder than ever to establish normalcy in their lives with holiday traditions. We all grieve differently and there is such a thing as toxic positivity. Acknowledging that life and feels different allows for healing.

2. Have conversations and ask questions.

Those questions that you have taking up space in your mind while trying to decide how to handle the holiday stress, ask them. Talk to your spouse, your friends, your family, your colleagues or mentors. If you are invited to a Halloween party or a Friendsgiving and don’t know what to expect…. Ask.

3. Practice empathy

This is the first time in our lifetime (and hopefully the last) that we are all going through the same thing at the same time. We are all going through it differently. I am a therapist, not an ICU nurse who took care of dying COVID-19 patients, or a person living with a life-threatening disease that has been quarantined since March because they are “high risk.” I am also not someone who previously suffered from depression and being told to stay in the house for a prolonged period of time, and now makes it even harder to leave their house. What I am trying to say is that R-E-S-P-E-C-T everyone’s choices when it comes to socialization. You do not know what battle they are fighting.

4. Be kind to yourself.

Similarly, to tip 1, this is new to all of us. If you are having a difficult time coping with all of life’s changes, know that it is okay. Our values, beliefs, and life experiences play a major role in how we cope with challenging times. If you have been knocked down, get back up, but don’t tell yourself that you are weak or stupid because you got knocked down.

5. Develop a coping plan.

If you tend to get stressed during the holidays pre-COVID-19, consider taking some time to develop a coping plan for how you will maintain your self-care during the holiday hustle. People tend to stop exercising, stop going to therapy, stop allowing time for that one hour massage every few weeks in an effort to save money for the holidays or due to all the social obligations of the holidays. This is the perfect time to maintain your self-care practice in an effort to minimize stress.

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